Six Sigma helps organizations in all industries reduce variation (any result the customer does not expect). In a healthcare setting, patients are the customer, and to reduce variation in their eyes, healthcare providers need to deliver quality care. This can be done by focusing on improving healthcare processes by making them efficient and cost-effective for both the organization and its patients.
Variation or defects lead to customers becoming dissatisfied. And when it comes to matters of health, the severity of the dissatisfaction can lead to loss of life. For instance, if a patient is incorrectly diagnosed and given the wrong medication and/or treatment, their health can severely deteriorate. Through Six Sigma, healthcare providers can eliminate such errors from happening.
Unfortunately, the healthcare industry doesn’t have many processes that can be automated. This means humans are at the forefront, which makes variation a major concern. That is where Six Sigma can play a vital role in making the healthcare industry better.
How Does Six Sigma Improve Healthcare Processes?
Too much human involvement means that there are too many variables to consider. And to make it worse, these variables tend to be small, making them difficult to quantify. But through Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology, this becomes easier.
Here is how healthcare providers can use DMAIC to their advantage:
- Define: The problem being experienced, whether it is long wait times for a doctor’s appointment or improper diagnosing, needs to be identified. Afterward, it needs to be defined in a clear and concise manner.
- Measure: How much do the healthcare processes need to be improved? The Measure phase is where the extent of the problem is assessed and put in quantifiable terms. As such, the Six Sigma team comes up with the necessary performance measures and KPIs.
- Analyze: The data is collected in regards to the performance indicators identified in the previous steps, allowing the team to analyze and zero in on the areas of improvement.
- Improve: The team begins making changes to the processes in order to improve the problematic processes.
- Control: The performance of the healthcare processes is monitored to see if the changes have indeed led to improvement. If not, the previous steps are repeated. Furthermore, this step is repeated continuously, regardless of success, to improve the processes on an ongoing basis and ensure that any gains stick.
Outcomes of Using Six Sigma to Improve Healthcare
When Six Sigma is implemented correctly, the healthcare organization should experience the following outcomes:
- Customer satisfaction will be improved
- Turnaround of lab results will be faster
- Human errors from doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals will either be reduced or eliminated
- The wait time for doctor appointments will be reduced
- The supply chain will be streamlined, increasing the pace at which healthcare services are delivered
- Medical claims will be reimbursed much faster
With Six Sigma, healthcare providers can improve their processes, leading to cost reduction and customer satisfaction. Not only will this improve the quality of life for people who rely on their services, but the organizations will see their bottom line increase as well. However, Six Sigma needs to be implemented correctly by following the DMAIC methodology to experience its positive impact.
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